We had been too tired to do anything interesting the night before. We mostly just watched some TV and read a couple of magazines. However, the next day was a little more adventurous. Once I had showered and changed into a fresh shirt and a pair of khaki shorts, Mum informed me that we were going down into the city centre, probably to one of the casinos. I wondered if they had forgotten how old I was. It was a well-known fact that you had to be twenty one to gamble in America.
“You know there’s no way I’ll get in?”
“Well we'll have a look. We won't leave you on your own.” Mum replied. Doubt flooded my mind at her words; I knew there wasn't a chance I'd get in.
We headed back outside and started down the road. Cars drove past, each kicking up a little bit more heat and dust from the side of the road. I could feel the back of legs and neck burning already and knew it was down to my naturally pale complexion and ginger hair. I had always burned easily and it was never a particularly attractive look.
"Oh yes Joseph I packed a hat for you," Mum reached into her bag and pulled out a hat my granddad might have worn if he was still alive. It was one of those really old fisherman hats with ‘Gone Fishing’ scrawled across the front.
"There’s no way on Earth I'm wearing that mum."
"But you’ll burn."
She frowned. "Well at least put some sunscreen on."
"Fine," I relented. She handed me a bottle of sun lotion and I began rubbing it into my scorching skin. It started to help instantly and I hid a quiet sigh of relief from Mum.
Dad had a small map in front of him and he was turning it all the way round. He looked utterly confused, but was too proud to actually admit it.
"We should just ask for directions."
"No, I can do this."
"What is it with men and asking for directions?" Mum sighed exasperated. "Look, a bus stop!"
Sure enough, a little way ahead of us was a small bus shelter, completely empty. It had a timetable attached to the glass wall and the words Downtown Reno above it.
"I guess this is the bus station we need." Dad reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of coins. One thing that takes some getting used to when you go to America is the money. I left Dad to it, counting out the dollars and the cents and whatever else he had. I watched the cars passing by, every now and then meeting the casual glance of a driver or a passenger. I wondered if we looked like typical tourists. There I was, in my dark sunglasses and bright orange hair and slightly shiny skin from where the sun screen hadn’t quite sunk in yet. Mum was wearing some flowery maxi dress that she insisted she looked good in but I thought made her look twenty years older, and Dad had taken to wearing the fisherman’s hat with these hideous brown sandals.
I spotted a bus coming down the road with the number forty-one on the front. According to the timetable beside us, that was the one we needed. I stuck my hand out, unsure if that was what you needed to do in America. It was in England; the customs couldn’t be that different.
It screeched to a halt and the doors swung open with a reluctant groan. The bus driver looked bored and viewed us all with wearied eyes. There were only a few people on the bus; an elderly woman at the front and a couple towards the back.
"Downtown Reno please," Dad announced. "Not sure how much it is. We're not from around here."
Oh sure, my dad: Captain Obvious.
He handed over a handful of coins and the driver took what he needed, handing the rest back. He printed out three tickets for us and told us to take a seat. I chose a window seat behind my parents.
The bus jerked to a start again and I watched the world pass us by as we sped down the road. Reno was so different to the town I lived in. Everything was much bigger and busier. There was also the fact that they drove on the right here which took a little getting used to. I kept expecting a car to come crashing into us, which I know was completely ridiculous.
When we got off the bus, I saw how full of life Reno was and I found myself a little disorientated at first. I immediately clutched at my mum’s arm, frightful I was going to lose her. We passed several shops each selling very different things. There was a liquor shop, a pawn shop, even a shop that offered ‘Wild West Souvenirs’. There was an arcade just ahead of us with bright lights and loud music but we walked straight past that, towards a casino.
"This one looks tacky enough that you won't get ID’ed," Dad joked.
"Do we really want to head into a tacky casino?" Mum fretted. "You hear all sorts of stories about scammers and thugs."
"You watch too much Panorama," Dad replied. "Let’s sit down somewhere first and get something to eat."
We headed over to a place called Dolly’s Diner and took a seat outside. Dad picked the menu up and began browsing it. I settled for a burger and chips with a coke, mum had a salad and dad got a panini. We ate in silence, perfectly content in people watching. We didn’t seem to be the only tourists here; people with cameras hanging round their necks marvelling at the sights, accompanied by other avid sandal-lovers. It seemed like a real touristy place to go.
Once our stomachs were full and the bill had been paid, we went down the road to the casino we had seen earlier. Bright lights decorated the entrance and I counted five bulbs that had been smashed in. I hovered behind my parents, reluctant to go inside.
"They're going to ID me," I said. "I don't exactly look twenty one do I?"
"Joe, when are you ever going to be here again? This holiday is for you. We can just try it and if you get ID'ed we'll leave straight away."
Mum frowned. "We shouldn't really be encouraging this."
"The kid’s nearly sixteen, he deserves this."
"Yes but what kind of parents are we if we try and get our underage son to sneak into a casino?"
"Who cares?" Dad scoffed. "We're on holiday!"
"Okay," I nodded. "Let’s do this."
I followed them inside.